Sourou River Basin
Sourou, a river valley on the border with Mali, is an important area for birds. The Sourou river is an extension of the Mouhoun, previously known as the ‘Black Volta’. The river stretches along 150 km, with 60 km of it in Burkina. During flood periods the river is fed by the Mouhoun, and in dry spells the Mouhoun is itself fed by the Sourou. The river has been controlled by waterworks since 1984, resulting in the creation of a large lake, and in dry periods the river is used to irrigate agricultural areas. The project area covers 30,000 ha and includes some 40,000 people in 29 villages. Fishing and the processing of fish products are important sources of income.
The problems faced by the population here are typical of the country: severe poverty and illiteracy. Even more than in Oursi, natural resources in the Sourou area are under severe pressure. Tree felling, inadequate agricultural practices and water pollution all threaten the area’s biodiversity. Naturama has set up an active Site Support Group in Sourou, a village forest has been planted as an alternative source of wood, and an education programme is being offered to the population. The upscaling in ‘Living on the Edge’ at Sourou will focus on a management plan aimed at restoring the original landscape and stabilising the natural river banks. The capacity of the Site Support Group will also be strengthened, and a programme will be launched in which local communities are involved in the sustainable management of the wetland.
Oursi is part of a 25,900 km2 river basin in the north-east of Burkina Faso. The landscape is characterised by two main features: a plain of rocks, hills and shrub/woodland, and a group of eight natural lakes in the lowest areas. The lakes are fed by rainfall in the wet season. Sand dunes lie around them, reaching a height of 65 to 165 feet. The area is a particularly important natural habitat. It has been recognised as such in several ways, including being marked as a ‘Ramsar site’, meaning it’s among the world’s most important wetlands. The area is crucial both for European migratory birds and for rare African species.
This relatively sparsely populated area is home to some 10,000 people in 14 villages. These communities survive on stock breeding, fishing and foraging. Oursi’s fragile ecosystem is threatened by the unsustainable use of the area’s natural resources: overgrazing, pollution and deforestation. Overgrazing and deforestation, combined with climate change, are hastening desertification. The expansion of sand dunes threatens lakes and their surrounding areas.
Naturama has been working in the Oursi region since 1997. An active Site Support Group was formed, and in the early years it carried out some small projects. In recent years, developments in Oursi have progressed at lightning pace. An integral management plan has been developed with the local communities and certain destructive practices, including reckless tree felling, have been reigned in. With support from the HERE campaign, amongst others, work is being done to combat desertification using natural approaches. Around 30,000 trees have been planted, for example. Poor agricultural practices have also been altered, and vegetable patches have been developed. The Site Support Group now operates independently. The management plan can be implemented and expanded further using methods based on ‘Living on the Edge’. These include the restoration of the area’s typical ecosystem, with its dry forested areas and lakes with wetland banks. Particular focus will be placed on the restoration of the acacia forests. A second pillar of the plan is to improve standards of living. Economic development is supported by the reshaping of agricultural practices to more sustainable models, and by a more effective use of wood. Eco-tourism, still in its infancy, will be given a boost.
In ‘Living on the Edge’, Oursi will be held up as a successful example of the BirdLife Method. It will be used for exchange visits, press trips, and communication and lobbying activities. See the summary in chapter 1 for more information.
Lake Higa, in the east of Burkina Faso near the Niger border, shares some of Oursi’s characteristics and challenges. Some 5,000 people live around the lake, spread over six villages. As in Sourou, the people largely depend on fishing. As the lake is very remote, the importance of the area to birds was only discovered in 2007. Naturama launched a programme there immediately. The idea of a Site Support Group was met with enthusiasm. The group was set up in 2009, and activities so far have included training sessions and village meetings. The population is open to a collective approach to environmental restoration and to improving their livelihoods, because here too the degradation of the land and its natural resources has increased sharply. The area’s vegetation, as well as its birds, have now been mapped out. All the ingredients are there for sound management and the development of an environmental restoration plan. The implementation of the BirdLife Method in Higa has been made possible by ‘Living on the Edge’.